Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith reports that he has joined his fellow Sheriffs in the New York State Sheriffs’ Association in an amicus curiae brief filed in support of a lawsuit challenging the New York State Secure Firearms and Ammunition Enforcement Act (“the NY SAFE Act”). The Sheriffs’ Association has joined with several other law enforcement groups in the “friend of the court” brief, filed in support of New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Cuomo, which is currently in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York. The brief bolsters the litigants’ arguments that the Act is unlawful on Second Amendment and other legal grounds, while offering the unique perspective of law enforcement on this issue.
Sheriff Smith was the President of the Sheriffs’ Association in January when the Association spoke out against the law and wrote to Governor Cuomo requesting that the Act be revised, citing several provisions in the Act that the lawmen believe will make New Yorkers less safe. Sheriff Smith, who currently serves as the Chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Sheriffs’ Association, has said that “the so-called ‘SAFE Act’ should actually be called the ‘Not So Safe Act’ because there are many provisions in the Act that put our citizens at risk.”
“In fact,” said Sheriff Smith, “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Legislature pushed the legislation through fast because they wanted it passed so badly, and unfortunately what resulted was bad law.” The Sheriff expressed concern that the law was virtually passed “in the dead of night” without expert input from the New York State Sheriffs’ Association or other members of law enforcement. In passing the SAFE Act, the Governor even waived the usual 72-hour waiting period for bill passage with a Message of Necessity.
Sheriff Smith has been invited to speak on the SAFE Act and gun issues before myriad audiences, including an address he gave at New York University (NYU) last week where medical experts and mental health professionals at NYU Medical Center convened a symposium. His input was very well received at that conference.
One of the Sheriff’s deepest concerns is that drug dealers, gang members, and felons will always skirt the laws to obtain any kind of gun and thus the strictures on gun ownership in the new law will effectively penalize only law abiding citizens. Similarly, the Sheriff reasoned that those same drug dealers, gang members and felons aren’t going to abide by the restriction against loading more than seven bullets in the guns they carry. The only sure effect of that provision of the law will be to put innocent gun owners at a potentially fatal tactical disadvantage against better armed criminals.
The Sheriff noted that, although law enforcement officers are always ready to respond to acts of armed violence, their response time is often measured in minutes, while in many instances, citizens under attack have just seconds to ward off harm. The Sheriff pointed out that Putnam County is one of the most well-armed communities in New York State, with over 10% of its citizens having handgun licenses, and that Putnam County has had the lowest crime rate in the State of New York for three consecutive years. In fact, during Sheriff Smith’s tenure as Sheriff, from 2002 to 2012 index crime has gone down by 34.3%, violent crime has decreased by 45.9% and property crime has declined by 33.6%